NEW YORK, Sept. 21, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — AFDI/SIOA co-founder and Executive Director Pamela Geller has won an important victory for free speech. Omar Tarazi, a lawyer linked to the Hamas front group the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has dismissed his ten-million-dollar libel lawsuit against Geller with prejudice: it cannot be re-filed.
Geller explained: “This is a huge victory for the First Amendment, truth, and the anti-Sharia movement in this country, which is exposing an insidious cancer that brings progressives and Islamic supremacists together in common cause to attack anyone who criticizes Islamic supremacism with the threat of lawsuits, actual lawsuits, or even worse, violence.”
“The message,” she added, “is that we will not be silent. We will continue to fight the implementation of Sharia blasphemy laws restricting free speech under the guise of the fictional construct of a ‘phobia.’”
Tarazi, an Ohio-based lawyer, represented the parents of Rifqa Bary, the teenage girl who fled from her home in fear for her life in 2009, after converting from Islam to Christianity. He sued Geller for $10,000,000 after she criticized him in a series of blog posts at her award-winning website, AtlasShrugs.com, pointing out his ties to Hamas-linked CAIR and his efforts to harass and demoralize Rifqa Bary by, among other initiatives, denying her the Christmas cards that Geller had encouraged her readers to send to the girl.
Geller pointed out the larger implications of Tarazi’s lawsuit: “This lawsuit was filed as part of the Islamic supremacist lawfare campaign against critics of Sharia, jihad, Islam’s death penalty for apostates, and honor killings, and I refused to capitulate. At the end of the day, Tarazi blinked and folded. The years-long battle is over, and Islamic supremacism has suffered a stunning and well-deserved defeat.”
The voluntary dismissal with prejudice followed the filing of a court document by David Yerushalmi of the Law Offices of David Yerushalmi, P.C., and Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center (who represented Geller pro bono because of the important free speech implications of this case), asking the court to rule in Geller’s favor. It prevents Tarazi from refilling the lawsuit in the future. The settlement requires Geller to pay no money, and stipulates only that she remove five of the dozens of AtlasShrugs.com blog posts about Tarazi’s role in the Rifqa Bary case.
Although Geller agreed to remove these posts criticizing Tarazi, dozens of other posts remain at AtlasShrugs.com detailing his conduct in the Bary affair, and the settlement places no restrictions on Geller writing about Tarazi’s role in the Bary case in the future. Tarazi had complained that Geller had libeled him by linking him to CAIR, a Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas front group that U.S. Department of Justice has named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation Hamas terror funding case.
However, during discovery, Geller’s lawyers established that Tarazi did in fact have personal and professional links to CAIR, and that Geller’s statements could not be defamatory because they were true.
Geller also reported information from other sources critical of Tarazi’s actions – including allegations that he had perjured himself in court filings in the Ohio juvenile proceedings on the Bary case. Here again, however, Geller’s lawyers explained how Tarazi had indeed not been completely honest with the juvenile court, and that Geller’s statements were true. Geller thus asked the court to dismiss Tarazi’s lawsuit entirely.
The case began when Tarazi sued Geller for libel in September 2010, demanding damages of $10,000,000. He filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Two months later, Yerushalmi and Muise filed a motion to dismiss Tarazi’s suit on the grounds that Geller’s remarks were protected speech under Ohio Free Speech law and under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court never ruled on that motion.
In August 2011, Tarazi filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that he had proven his case and asking the court to grant judgment on liability and to schedule a trial to determine the amount of damages. On September 19, 2011, Yerushalmi and Muise countered this, arguing that not only had Tarazi not proven his case, but that all of Geller’s published statements were true and not defamatory.
On September 20, Tarazi gave up, asking Yerushalmi for a settlement. Geller refused Tarazi’s request to keep the terms of the settlement confidential in light of the important implications of the case for the freedom of speech.
AFDI/SIOA is one of America’s foremost organizations defending human rights, religious liberty, and the freedom of speech against Islamic supremacist intimidation and attempts to bring elements of Sharia to the United States.